Clarence Cook Little

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Clarence Cook Little was a famous geneticist who founded the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar

Clarence Cook Little

Harbour, Maine. The laboratory specializes in genetic studies. [1]


Clarence Cook Little was Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1888.[2]

Little graduated from Harvard University in 1914 with BA, MS, and a Doctor of Science. He then embarked on a career in university administration, first as a dean at Harvard, then as president of the University of Maine and the University of Michigan.[3]

C.C. Little served as scientific director of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC). In 1947, his laboratory building burned down and 90,000 specially-bred mice perished with the loss of 15 years of careful inbreeding. He appears to have seen this as a religious sign -- a life-changing epiphany which gave him more religious leanings. [4]

Edwin B. Wilson, a Harvard School of Public Health statistician, was a lifelong friend and associate of Little who called him by his nickname "Pete." Wilson had once been the vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. The tobacco archives contain a number of his letters sending advice and gossip to Little and other TIRC staff.[5][6]

Tobacco industry involvement

In 1959 Little retired as full-time director of the Jackson Laboratory, and continued as Scientific Director of the TIRC.[7]

Stance on smoking

Little appeared to be uncertain about whether smoking was a cause of cancer, and made a number of contradictory statements on this topic during a 1959 deposition.[8] A 1963 article in New Yorker Magazine that examined the evidence about smoking and disease reported that "Dr. Little [as head of the TIRC] has consistently maintained that the relationship between smoking and health has been insufficiently investigated and is too complex to warrant a conclusion that smoking is a cause of lung cancer or other diseases." Little further believed that genetic, hormonal, emotional or other factors could contribute to lung cancer and maintained that the cause of lung cancer was "still unknown." Dr. Little made these comments even after the British government had for the previous year been engaging in an extensive publicity campaign warning people that cigarette smoking was dangerous to health. The UK government had by this time distributed a million posters to schools, clinics and post offices that bore the warning "Before You Smoke, THINK. Cigarettes Cause Lung Cancer." [9]

However this public stance may not have represented his real views. In 1958 three representatives from the United Kingdom's Tobacco Manufacturers Standing Committee (TMSC, the UK equivalent of the TIRC) went to the United States and met with the scientific directors of TIRC and the various tobacco companies in confidential interviews. The visitors had a check-list of questions that they asked each of the scientists they met, and at the top of this list was: "the extent to which it is accepted that cigarette smoke 'causes' lung cancer." Clarence Cook Little was one of those interviewed at length. Their report back to the TMSC summarizes the actual scientific opinion at this time:

With one exception (H.S.N. Greene) the individuals whom we met believed that smoking causes lung cancer if by "causation" we mean any chain of events which leads finally to lung cancer and which involves smoking as an indispensable link. In the USA only Berkson, apparently, is not prepared to doubt the statistical evidence and his reasoning is nowhere thought to be sound.[10]

C.C. Little was not included in the list of disbelievers.

Sourcewatch resources

External resources and tobacco industry documents


  1. The Jackson Library Web site Milestones Accessed December 16, 2008
  2. Office of the Home Secretary, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Biographical Memoirs Volume XLVI 1975. ISBN-10: 0-309-02240-1. 446 pages, at page 241
  3. Little, C.C.Curriculum Vitae of Clarence Cook Little May 26, 1962. Council for Tobacco Research Bates No. 70055894/5894
  4. Ubell, E.Geneticist New Director Of Famous "Mousery" Article/publication. August 27, 1956. American Tobacco Bates No. 950299572
  5. E.B. Wilson Untitled letter February 8, 1961. Bates No. 11320137/0138
  6. W.T. Hoyt, Tobacco Industry Research Council Untitled letter July 29, 1961. Bates No. SM0080039/0039
  7. Ubell, E.Geneticist New Director Of Famous "Mousery" Article/publication. August 27, 1956. American Tobacco Bates No. 950299572
  8. Outline of Deposition of Clarence Cook Little Taken on Behalf of Plaintiffs on November 3, 1959, November 3, 1959. Bates No. ATMXPRIV00013038/3041
  9. Whiteside, T., New Yorker A Reporter At Large, A Cloud Of Smoke November 30, 1963. 9 pp. American Tobacco Bates No. 966018382/8390
  10. Bentley HR, Felton DC, Reid WW Report on Visit to USA and Canada Report. June 1, 1958. Tobacco Institute Bates NO. TIOK0034790/4799

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